Wandering Eye: The economy is not as good as unemployment suggests, and more

Fewer prime-age workers are working, and that means the economy isn't really in as good a shape as conventional measures—such as unemployment—suggest it is. That is the conclusion of Kevin Cashman, who blogs at The Center for Economic and Policy Research. Cashman charts out the unemployment rate of civilian Americans between the ages of 25 and 54—people who would be expected to be in the labor force. Unsurprisingly, it's a healthy 4.5 percent—just about what economists think of as "full employment." With full employment usually comes an increase in the federally set rate of interest, to make loan payments go up and slow down economic growth before inflation can take hold. And indeed, the Federal Reserve is widely expected to raise interest rates this year—for the first time in nearly a decade—to something above zero. But Cashman's chart has another line, depicting the labor force participation rate of prime-age adults. And that line shows declining participation dating from 1999, with a particular drop since the 2008 recession. That figure dropped even as unemployment also decreased. "This suggests that much of the improvement that we have seen in the prime-age unemployment is due to a declining prime-age civilian labor force," Cashman writes. "When workers are so disheartened with their employment prospects and no longer look for a job, they are no longer counted as unemployed, and thus the civilian labor force participation rate declines, as does the unemployment rate." If we counted these prime-age people who left the labor force since 2008 as unemployed, the unemployment rate of this cohort would be 7.3 percent. If it's part of the Fed's brief to help create conditions in which people can find jobs, then it's still failing. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


A heartbreaking report in The New York Times this morning: "As many as 80 percent of the girls in some states' juvenile justice systems have a history of sexual or physical abuse, according to a report released Thursday." The study found that sexual abuse "was among the primary predictors of girls' involvement with juvenile justice systems, but that the systems were ill-equipped to identify or treat the problem." Although the average is that 31 percent of girls in the juvenile justice system have been sexually abused, a shocking 93 percent have been physically or sexually abused in Oregon, and "in California, 81 percent of girls have experienced such abuse, with 40 percent having been raped or sodomized at least once and 45 percent having been burned or beaten." Some of these girls become victims of sex trafficking, but are arrested on prostitution charges, even if they're as young as 13. It keeps in line with previous research that has found that girls who are forced or pressured into sexual activity tend to exhibit more "externalizing behavior" such as starting fights and engaging in unsafe sexual practices. "When law enforcement views girls as perpetrators, and when their cases are not dismissed or diverted but sent deeper into the justice system, the cost is twofold: Girls' abusers are shielded from accountability, and the trauma that is the underlying cause of the behavior is not addressed," the new report says. (Anna Walsh)


It's the middle of the afternoon on July 4 in Washington, D.C., when the city is packed to the gills with people. People are riding the Red Line of the Metro when, suddenly, a man tries to steal a cellphone from another passenger, and then starts beating him and stabbing him—30 to 40 times, investigators later reveal. The victim, a recent American University graduate, dies. This being the most popular line of Washington's subway system, there were lots of witnesses. But nobody stepped in. Now, Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak asks D.C. readers, "What would you do?" That question could obviously extend here to Baltimore, where acts of violence occur every day. Dvorak quotes a bunch of Reddit toughs who say they would have intervened, but that's not especially interesting. Here's a quote from someone who actually did: Dylan Rawls, 31, who came across a brutal beating taking place in Bethesda last year and stepped in to stop the fight, which, according to police, saved the victim's life. "I've gone over that night a million times in my head. I've thought: 'That was really dumb, I wasn't thinking,'" he said. "But that's what happened. I wasn't thinking. Had I stopped, thought about it, weighed the pros or cons, had I had time to react, I might've scared myself out of helping." As for all the people second-guessing from behind their computer screens, he said: "You really don't know unless you're there." (Brandon Weigel)

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